January 20, 2015

Illinois

Statehood: December 3rd, 1818 (21/50)

Everything I know about Illinois comes from Sufjan Steven's 2005 album "Come On Feel the Illinoise" (possibly the greatest piece of artistic work in any form there's ever been). For example...

"Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois": Pretty self-explanatory, but in January of 2000, a local mini golf owner and a handful of police officers claim to have seen an unidentifiable, enormous black triangle in the sky with blinking lights.

"Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts": Superman came from Metropolis. As such, Metropolis, IL - located in the southern part of the state - considers itself The Official Home of Superman (there's even a 15-foot bronze statue of the hero in the middle of town). The city - which is obviously quite taken with Clark Kent's other side - annually holds a Superman Celebration the second weekend of June each year.

"Casimir Pulaski Day": Probably not a holiday you're celebrating unless you live in Illinois. It's observed on the first Monday of March each year in memory of Casimir Pulaski, a Polish-born officer in the Revolutionary War. He was considered the father of the American cavalry and once wrote a letter to George Washington stating, “I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it." The law was enacted on 9/13/1977, the first official celebrations of Pulaski's birthday were held the following year, and on 11/6/2009 Obama signed a joint resolution making Pulaski an honorary American citizen (some 200+ years after his death).

Inevitably, Illinoisans, it's time to ingest your edible icons!


State Fruit: Goldrush Apple

The fourth graders of Woodlawn Elementary School helped the hearty, yellow Goldrush apple become the official state fruit in a law that was passed in August, 2007.

A Salad of Many Sides
Makes: 2 dinner salads

Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon oil
1 10-oz bag of Gardein Teriyaki Chick'n Strips
3/4 cup raw pecans
3 cups packed greens
1/4 cup Craisins
1 avocado, cubed
1 Goldrush apple (or whatever similar apple available to you), sliced thin
1/2 cup gorgonzola, crumbled
1/4 cup dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons honey
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoons salt

Method:
Add the olive oil to a pan and saute the Gardein Teriyaki Chick'n Strips on medium-high heat until brown, about 8 minutes (flipping often so they get nice color throughout). Meanwhile, in a pan on low-medium heat, toast the pecans for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

When both the chick'n and pecans are done, on two plates assemble the salad: split evenly the greens, the Craisins, the avocado, the sliced apples, he gorgonzola, the pecans, then the chick'n.

Whisk together the honey-mustard dressing by combining the mustard, honey, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt together in a separate bowl. Drizzle as much, or as little, on your salad as you prefer. You WILL have leftover dressing.


State Snack Food: Popcorn

Cunningham Elementary School's second and third graders - along with their teacher - were behind getting popcorn designated as the official state snack food by the General Assembly in August, 2003 beating out Beer Nuts and Lemonhead candies. The choice makes sense given that IL is one of the top five producers of corn in the country.

NOTE: Have a lot of time and love things from scratch? Make your own caramel and cheese popcorn! Don't have a lot of time, but still want to selectively choose what kind of caramel and cheese popcorn you want to use? Buy the two flavors separately (we've got an awesome local option here in Portland), then mix them yourself! Have NO time at all and want an insanely easy option? Head to Trader Joe's and buy their Chicago Popcorn!

Option 2 Chicago Popcorn
Makes: 4+ cups

Ingredients:
2 cups of caramel-coated popcorn
2 cups of cheese-coated popcorn

Method:
Mix the caramel and cheese popcorns together in a big bowl. Serve!


Sources:
Illinois.gov: State Symbols
Illinois General Assembly: Compiled Statutes - General Provisions
VisitMetropolis.com